Every Sunday, in churches all around the world, there are four types of people that will walk into the building. Even if they don’t walk into the building these same four people are watching online. Jesus told us about these people in Matthew 13.
He told many stories in the form of parables, such as this one:
Here are the four types of people:
Every Sunday in churches around the world, there are people being robbed right in front of your eyes. These people hear the word, and they receive it, but it never gets a chance to take root because it gets robbed from them. They sit in the pews, they may look around the sanctuary, and may even look like they know what is going on, but inside there is confusion. There may be confusion over the message, over something that happened in the service. Between the time they hear the word and it has a chance to get settled in their hearts, something happens that causes them to miss the word and allows the enemy to steal it from them.
We used to have a term back in the day for these types of folks, the Sunday Christian. These are those who make going to church an important part of their life, but it is only important for the time they spend there. These people love to be in church and love to hear good preaching. These are the people that are ready to identify with Christ if it doesn’t cost them anything. When there is no persecution or sacrifice required, then they are quick to sign up. However, when following Christ means it has to interrupt and interfere with their everyday life, they want no part of it. They will still come to church because that is part of what they do, but church is just the routine and sadly they never grow beyond being a Sunday Christian.
These people love to hear God’s word, but life gets in the way of them acting on it. Interestingly enough, these people are distracted by the trials of life or the blessings of life – and sometimes both. The trials of life discourage them, and they soon forget the truth of the word. The discouragement can be so strong that some will just give up.
The others are deceived chasing the blessings of life. They are tricked into thinking the word is tied to your wealth or material things and they chase after the same deception the people in the world chase after. These people will always prioritize the pursuits of the world over pursuing the things of God. Not because they don’t think the things of God are important, it’s just that they are blinded by their own desires. They will still go to church as long as it doesn’t interfere with their pursuit of life.
Thankfully, there are some who will not only hear the word and understand it, but will apply it to their lives. The truth is the reason no other fruit was produced in the other types of people’s lives is because the word never got to the place where it began to impact the choices and decisions they make. They were all hearers of the word, but only one group were doers. The ones who were the doers were the ones who produced fruit.
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These four people will show up in your church this weekend. If you are serving in the church or you are a leader in the church, then here are a few suggestions to help address this issue.
Keep preaching the word – The problem is not the word, so make sure you keep preaching and teaching the word.
Make room for the presence of God – There are two transforming agents in the lives of people and they both work together. They are the Word of God and the Spirit of God. It doesn’t matter how good the messages are – if the Holy Spirit is not present to take whatever truth is taught and bring it to life, then the people are susceptible to being robbed, distracted or remaining shallow. Be sure to invite the presence of God into the service so he can do the transforming work that flows in cooperation with the word of God.
Allow time for people to digest the word – We went out to eat recently with another couple from our church. After we were finished, we were sitting at the table talking and just enjoying each other’s company. While we were sitting there talking, at least four to five different people from the wait staff asked us if we were done yet. Though they never uttered the words clearly, they were trying to get us to rush out of those seats because it was a Friday and they wanted to get more people in.
Too often this is how we treat church, especially if there are multiple services. We don’t give people time to digest what was preached because we have to move everybody out so we can get the next group in. The time to sit and reflect on what was preached or to just pray and wait in God’s presence gets sacrificed, because we need those seats. I am not saying don’t have multiple services, but make sure you allow people time to wait in God’s presence so the word that was planted can at least settle in their hearts. When we do this, we create an atmosphere that marries the word of God and the Spirit of God and creates an environment for people to be able to hear the word, receive it, understand it, apply it and ultimately bear fruit from it.
Whether you recognize it or not these four people will be in the building or watching online. Let’s make sure to create an atmosphere that gives people not only the ability to hear the word, but allows the possibility of the word taking root. It is only then that these people will grow in their walk with Jesus.
Photo credit: Unsplash/krispaparo
Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, teacher, author, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He has spent more than 30 years serving the body of Christ in various capacities and is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose. If you have ever struggled to try to find God’s will, this book will help you discover the different ways God leads you into his perfect will. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.